Moonage Daydream (M18)
135 minutes, opens next Thursday
The story: The first film authorised by the David Bowie estate is an experiential odyssey through his creative and spiritual evolution, with narration by the late British singer-songwriter from archival television interviews.
This music documentary has few biographical details and is no biopic because Bowie was not always Bowie. He was Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke and the Blind Prophet over a 54-year career of ch-ch-changing identities and restless reinvention.
Neither is Moonage Daydream a straightforward music documentary because Bowie was more than a musician.
Writer-director-producer-editor Brett Morgen, behind the Emmy-nominated Nirvana documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck (2015), was given unprecedented access to five million items of Bowie’s own paintings, photography, poetry, experimental videos and never-before-seen concert footage from his private collection.
Bowie was, moreover, a prolific actor.
Clips of all these as well as stock images are overlaid with abstract animation and Bowie hits from the 1970s to the 2016 Blackstar album released two days before his death. There are 48 Bowie songs, remastered by his long-time producer Tony Visconti.
The movie – the title itself a 1971 Bowie recording – is mesmeric, psychedelic and exceedingly loud.
Bowie embraced chaos. Which makes this free-association multimedia blowout the truest expression of the mercurial artist who was a self-styled space alien, forever searching for meaning in the cosmos, even as he became one of the most influential pop innovators on earth.
Hot take: Turn and face the strange in a trippy documentary on an other-worldly rock rebel.
A Banquet (PG13)
98 minutes, opens on Thursday
The story: Seventeen-year-old schoolgirl Betsey (Jessica Alexander) experiences an epiphany and comes to believe she is a vessel for a mystical force. She stops eating altogether for fear of defilement yet loses no weight, which already makes this a horror movie for anyone on a diet.
A Banquet is confined largely to the London suburban home Betsey shares with her widowed mother, Holly (Sienna Guillory), and sister (Ruby Stokes).
Here, the film unsettles via its extreme close-ups of mouths, tongues, violently sizzling bacon and viscous meat. Every family repast is shot to appear at once epicurean and revolting.
This British art-house psychodrama is what Babette’s Feast (1987) might be like if cooked by venereal horror specialist David Cronenberg. A lone garden pea on a dinner plate becomes the crux of the most stressful scene, a stand-off between Holly, her patience tested, and the wilfully starving daughter. It ends badly.
The movie, after much sustained disquiet, finally implodes in doomsday hysteria.
It is nevertheless ambitious and knowing in engaging with classic female horror cinema. It understands pubertal anxieties, how a teenager – whether Betsey or the prom queen of Stephen King’s Carrie (1976) – can fear a body she no longer recognises as her own.
It questions whether Betsey’s supernatural possession is mental illness, due perhaps to the trauma of her father’s recent suicide.
And it is as much about fraught maternal bonds with the arrival of a domineering granny (Lindsay Duncan). The Scottish film-maker is Ruth Paxton – a woman, of course.
Hot take: Girlhood is complicated and terrifyingly so in this coming-of-age chiller.